A Door Opens

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“…and the time traveller says, ‘I don’t have the foggiest. I just got here myself!'”

“HA! HA!” We were doubled over with laughter. And we were only on the third round.

It had started as a sleepy Thursday afternoon at Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum. Dark Moon, the day bartender (most of us call him Bert), was on holiday and I was watching after things for a couple of hours in between the lunch rush and the 5 p.m. business crowd. I was nursing a black IPA and leafing through the sport section of the Winterfell Mourning Crier when the door opened and in walked a tall man with flowing white hair and beard, dressed in a green suit. I knew in a moment it wasn’t St. Nick. Nor St. Patrick either.

It was Seamus Gumbo.

Sourcerer, Time Wizard, hippie, former merchant seaman, one-time head shop owner and my old friend and business partner. I’d received a couple of letters but he hadn’t visited Winterfell in more than two years, since “the Duke Ages” – Seamus’ joking reference to my time as the Duke of Evergreen.

“Line ’em up, barman,” he hollered in my general direction. “Whiskey! Your best! Three glasses. Straight, no chaser.” His fingers played an imaginary piano and he hummed – or grunted – a syncopated melody.

It was the worst Thelonious Monk impression I had ever heard. Though I can’t say I have heard many.

“Don’t worry about the bill,” he announced, “I’m a close friend of the owner of this establishment.” He sat himself down at the bar with mischief in his eyes and a smile of satisfaction on his face. He seemed quite pleased with his entrance.

“I’ll need to see some ID, sir,” I deadpanned.

“ID?!!” He responded as if highly insulted. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a business card and offered it to me.

“Seamus Gumbo,” I read aloud, “Time Wizard.”

I sniffed. “Yeah, time wizards, time travellers, time lords – we get all kinds in here.”

“C’mon, Danko! The card’s embossed!” He was impressed with his own business card.

I was impressed with the card too but not with the cardholder. “Finally spent the extra ten bucks to raise the lettering, eh? You cheap bastard!” I slipped the card into my pocket as Seamus began to laugh.

“That’s why I can’t pay for my drinks!” He slapped his hand on the bar as the laughter grew. My smile became a laugh as well and I came around from behind the bar to give him a big hug.

“How’ve you been, old-timer?” I said loudly. “Where have you been? Whatcha been up to? What brings you to Winterfell after all this time? How come you didn’t warn me you were coming, so I could have arranged to be out of town?”

“Let me answer that last question first,” he started. “No, wait. Let me answer the second one first. No, I’ll answer the third one, second. Wait. Can you say them again?” he continued to mock me, “In alphabetical order this time?” Laughter.

And this was before I starting pouring. We were just getting started!

It was only the two of us but the pub had come alive on this hazy afternoon as Seamus recounted his travels over the past couple of years over a couple of rounds of ale and a cheese platter and I responded in kind. Then came the cigars and more ale and more stories and more laughter.

Not long after Seamus arrived, Ulysses The Cat had wandered in from his favorite sleeping spot on the window seat in the pub’s sitting room. I knew he’d remember Seamus’ voice and would join us sooner or later. I put a couple of treats down for him and he walked right over to devour them. Then he sat and stared at Seamus for a bit. Next time I noticed Ulysses, he was scratching at the floor near the end of the bar, by the back door. Ever since I brought him from home to live in the pub, he has been fascinated with that area of the floor. You know how some cats are when they find an imperfection in something? They have to chew it or scratch it? They’ll work at it like they’re obsessed…for awhile. Then they go do something else. Later, they’re back at it. Obsessed once more. That’s how Ulysses had been. The floor does need some work around that door. Whoever put the tile in, made a mess of it. It’s driving that cat crazy.

As Ulysses scratched away at the floor, Seamus and I laughed and ate and drank and talked and talked and puffed and drank and laughed some more. It was a full afternoon of story-swapping – with a little impromptu sing-a-long thrown in now and then – at Storytellers Pub. What a great time we were having, catching up. So good to see Seamus again.

“My friend Sage ever stop in?” he asked me at one point.

“Yes. Sage Wright. Right?”

“That’s him.”

“He was passing through Winterfell…quite some months back. Last summer, I guess. I wasn’t much help to him, had nowhere to put him up. Not like the old days,” I smiled. “I helped him find lodging. He wasn’t here long. A couple days.”

Seamus nodded. “You’ve seen him more recently than I have,” he said.

“Funny you should mention him,” I went on, “I just met his niece not a week ago in Ireland. 21st century.

“Laura?” said Seamus but quickly corrected himself, “Laurel!”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“How’s she doing? She’s a nurse, I think,” Seamus said.

“She mentioned something about that,” I said. “She seems nice. Cute. Funny too. Took me a moment to catch on that she was putting me on a bit,” I laughed. “She remembers you, hanging out with her uncle. Oh, and I met Jamie too. By chance, in a pub there in Ravenbaille. She was working the bar. I didn’t put it together that she was Sage’s daughter until later.”

“You’re not the only one,” muttered Seamus as he looked away for a moment.

“Huh?” I was surprised at his response.

“Never mind,” he said, waving his hand, “go on, continue.” He sipped his beer and looked down at the bar.

“uhhhh…Jamie came over to Dankoville last fall. I’m doing business with her boss and she came over for that.”

“How are things in your little town?” asked Seamus, changing the subject.

I filled him in on the goings-on in Dankoville and out at Whitfield Farms. And I told him how my family members were doing, especially those he knew, including Annie.

“Your sister…is the sweetest person I have ever met,” said Seamus. He took a puff of his cigar and watched the smoke lift toward the ceiling. “Why, if I was 25 years younger, I —”

“You still wouldn’t be good enough for her,” I interjected.

“Says you!” Seamus came back.

“That’s right!” I said adamantly.

Another burst of laughter. Then Seamus’ laughter started to turn into a cough. Or maybe it was the cigar smoke. I reached for a glass to get him some water. He put his cigar down in the ash tray. Almost. He missed. The cigar rolled slowly along the bar…on the other end from me. The cough ceased and Seamus rose from his seat to follow the cigar. He reached over as far as he could stretch just as the cigar reached the edge of the bar and grabbed for it —-

Awww.

An expensive cigar lay on the floor of the pub. Ulysses came over to sniff it.

“Thief! That’s my cigar! Get your great big paws off it!” Seamus hollered in jest at my cat, who apparently did not take the joke. Ulysses scampered away.

Seamus moved a bar stool and got down on his knees to reach under the bar rail for the cigar.

Ulysses came back over, cautiously. He resumed scratching at the floor.

“I think your cat has found something,” Seamus said as he crawled toward Ulysses. The cat backed away.

“Your cigar?” I inquired with a teasing tone.

“No. A secret.”

What?

I turned in his direction.

“What?” I asked him.

“How long did you say you’ve owned this pub?” Seamus asked from his hands and knees as he ran his fingers along the floor where Ulysses had been scratching.

“Over a year now. 15 months I guess,” I replied as I placed his glass of water on the end of the bar and looked over at where Seamus now lay on his stomach.

“Did you ever suspect termites?” he asked.

Was he joking now or what?

“Okay Sea, what’s going on?” I walked out from behind the bar as he rose to his knees and leaned forward, placing his hands on the floor.

He looked up at me. “There’s a hole in your floor, Publican,” he said with a sly smile. He carefully pushed his fingers into a couple of cracks in the floor.

(I had been meaning to have this floor fixed, I assure any patrons of Storytellers Pub who may be reading this. It was just a decorating question that was yet to be decided – of whether to simply redo that one area or the entire floor. I assure you, the structural integrity of the pub is sound and no customer has been placed in any danger at any time. Aside from the usual Winterfell danger – witches, dark elves, the occasional vampire, The Mist – for which the management of the Storytellers Pub are not responsible. Please address any further inquiries to my attorneys, Dewey, Cheatham & Howe aka Moe, Larry & Curly.)

Seamus lifted one tile that at closer inspection seemed a bit out of place. “It’s a door!” Seamus said in surprise. I was also surprised but I can’t reprint here what I said there.

We looked down into this dark hole in the floor of my pub.

What the hell?

What the hell?

“Bring a candle,” Seamus said.

“There’s some water,” he said as he leaned into the hole with the candle I had fetched.

He put his hand in. “It’s pretty cold.”

He put his face just above the water and stared as he held the candle by his head. “There’s a ladder just a couple feet down. It looks pretty deep. I can’t see the bottom,” he added. He placed the candleholder on the floor and lowered himself into the opening.

He disappeared.

Ulysses leaped onto the bookcase against the back wall to watch the show.

I peered into the hole. Waiting.

And waiting.

“How long can he hold his breath?” I thought with visions of Lloyd Bridges starring in Sea Hunt floating through my head (for those of you with knowledge of the 1960s).

After a few minutes, the waters parted and Seamus arose.

“Well?” I welled him.

“This water is only two feet deep. Then you are under it. Completely. Clear of it,” Seamus said as he climbed out of the hole. He walked to the bar and grabbed his ale and took a long sip.

“What? How? How is that even possible?”

He looked at me.

“Damn it, Danko, I’m a Time Wizard, not a plumber,” Seamus said in his best DeForest Kelley (which was much better than his Thelonious Monk).

He was wet but not as wet as if he’d been swimming with Lloyd Bridges.

He sipped his brew. I poured a whiskey.

“At the bottom of the ladder, there is a stair. I followed it down another level to a series of  tunnels,” he said.

“Tunnels?”

“In all directions,” Seamus said as he reached over the bar for a napkin to wipe his brow. “I didn’t go far, I could see there were many turns. Didn’t want to get lost down there.”

He took another sip of beer and returned to the trap door. He propped it open and handed me the candle. I placed it on the bar and came back around to stare with Seamus into the hole.

We just stood there. Speechless. Staring at the hole in my floor.

A series of tunnels. Under Winterfell. Wow!

This was quite a surprise. It was incredible really.

It was My Spot.

That’s where I always stand! Most of the time, I don’t like to sit at the bar. I like to stand. If I’m there for the evening, I will sit of course. But if I’m just there for one or two rounds, to keep an eye on things and confer with the bartender, I stand right there! Every night I’ve gone in to town since we opened more than a year ago!

And all this time I had no idea that I was standing over a secret passageway. To a series of more secret passageways.

Now what do I do? Should I tell people about this?

“Best to keep it quiet until you investigate further,” said Seamus as he read my mind while re-lighting his cigar.

I nodded.

We were both speechless again. And, after six rounds of ale, not in any condition to climb into a deep, dark hole in the ground that leads to who knows where, who knows when.

There was only one thing to do.

Pour another round.

Stout this time.

And, after six rounds of ale and one of stout – not to mention the stray whiskey or two, we were – surprisingly – not in any better condition to climb into a deep, dark hole in the ground to who knows where, who knows…what……was I saying?

“I’m taking one more look,” Seamus opened the trap door again and stood at the opening, swaying in the wind. Wait, we were indoors. Probably wasn’t the wind. Probably was the ales. Or the stout maybe. Damn stout.

Ulysses The Cat left the room and returned to his window seat. He had seen enough.

Seamus opined that the tunnels would probably still be there tomorrow. I agreed. He also agreed. There was nothing else to say at that point, as gentlemen, we just had to agree to agree.

On his way out, Seamus dropped some cash into the donation box. “That’s for your staff, for the trouble they’ll have to go through tonight, trying to set things straight after your shift!” he said. And out he went.

I walked back over to that trap door, opened it again. Just to look.

“Been there, right under my feet all this time,” I thought, shaking my head.

“Hard to believe.”


Visit Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum, Second Life

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Winterfell%20Laudanum/210/210/23/

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Oktoberfest

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It was Saturday night and we were headed into town.

A while back Uncle Manuel sent word that the old Town Tavern was about to be put up for sale. I had just opened a pub in Winterfell but had just closed one on the SL Mainland. The idea of owning a pub near the family homestead sounded nice. My cousin Robbie handled the arrangements and hired the contractors to fix up the building. My sister Annie hired the managers and staff. I’d coordinated with them from afar and I was most anxious to see the place.

We were on the way to The Evergreen Pub in Dankoville. My pub, my town. Now, mind you, the town thing is a long and complicated story. We’ll get to that but not right now.

Tonight, we’re keeping it simple. We’re celebrating beer! The Evergreen Pub is hosting a little home-coming celebration for me along with a business coup: The Evergreen has negotiated a deal with The Pheasant’s Roost Tavern in Ravenbaile, Ireland to become the exclusive distributor of Pheasant’s Ale throughout the Greater Dankoville area. The managers at The Evergreen have done a great job though I will say that I did pull a few strings on this one, myself. Ever since I visited the Augurey Peak region and was introduced to Pheasant’s Ale…well, let’s just say I go out of my way to get back there whenever I can. And tonight, we will have one of the bartenders from The Pheasant’s Roost as our guest of honor. And just to have one more thing to celebrate, one of the managers had dubbed the event, “Oktoberfest Beer Tasting.” Although celebrating Oktoberfest with Irish beer and Italian/American pizza did seem a bit suspect. But a party is a party, I guess.

Annie was driving Uncle Manuel’s Desoto Firesweep. Uncle was in the back with Grace and I was riding shotgun. It’s not quite as impressive as it sounds. The car was built in 1957 but it is not 56 years old. It’s two years old. Uncle Manuel had it imported from the mid-20th century.

North on Route 131, passing through the town of Strange – which is the smart thing to do in the town of Strange, pass through. Or so they say. Myself, I’ve never had any trouble there. But I’ve heard some stories about that town. Some mysterious stuff.

Annie had been pointing out changes along the way as Manuel and Grace discussed local politics. Dankoville looked pretty much as I remembered it. A couple of new buildings mixed in with the old. “And here comes your office,” Annie said. “My office?!!” “Yes, on the left. Let’s see if they put the sign up yet…oh yes! Oh, that looks nice. You’ll be all set!”

I got a quick look as we passed the building. “A two-story building? For me?” I spoke quietly and hoped Uncle Manuel was too involved in talking with Grace to hear me. “When I said ‘office,’ I meant one of the guest rooms at the house. Not even the whole room. I thought I’d share with Robbie. All I wanted was a desk,” I said, trying to moderate the sound of protest in my voice. But Annie kept right on selling, “Oh Danko, we’re full up at the house now. And you need to be in town to conduct business and network and be seen and get a feel for what’s going on in the community.”

I wasn’t going to argue with her in front of Uncle Manuel and Grace – and maybe she was right, I hadn’t thought about it. Why would I? This trip was supposed to be about Manuel passing the operation of Whitfield Farms down to his son, Robertson. I just came to find out what the details were and to see how I could help and, of course, to sign the documents. I didn’t know I’d be appointed president of the company. So how could I know I would need a proper office. As a matter of fact, how could Annie know?!!

As it dawned on me, I shot her a look. It was involuntary. I think my mouth dropped open. Annie glanced at me quickly and looked back at the road and bit her lip. We said nothing. All of a sudden the conversation in the back seat stopped as well. There was an awkward silence until Grace said, “Danko, look at the business you’re doing tonight! The parking lot is full! Annie dear, take a right on Whitfield Street and park behind the gallery.” As we got out of the car and gathered ourselves up and began to walk back to the pub, Annie was avoiding my eyes.

Well, okay. So she knew before I did. And she acted on it. What else would I expect her to do? Why am I angry? Wait, I’m not angry, just surprised, just thrown off by the whole turn of events. There’s nothing actually wrong here…it’s just the shock of it all.

As we walked down the street with the others behind us, I reached over and put my arm around my sister and gave her a walking hug. “I could see furniture, a waiting area there, I guess…in my office…looked very nice,” I said, trying to ease the tension. “Oh, I do hope you like it,” Annie said, sounding relieved. “If you don’t like the color scheme we can exchange it all.” “Oh no, I’m sure it’ll be fine, Annie.” “There’s a display area on the ground floor too,” she went on, “for you to promote your writing as well as the farm. The top floor will be your office. It’s a marvelous space. Great view. You can see the mountains.” She was still selling me, still a bit worried.

“It sounds perfect,” I was trying to reassure her and myself at the same time. “I’ll go in Monday and have a look at the place. Maybe even get started a little.” “Your assistant will be there at 9 a.m.” Annie responded. I blinked. Annie continued, “She’s a temp. I have two interviews set up for you on Monday afternoon with candidates for the permanent job and one more on Tuesday.” I smiled. “Great. Thanks.” Nuff said. Anyway, we’d arrived at the party.

“Here’s the man! Danko!!” shouted one of the patrons at the bar as we entered The Evergreen Pub. There were a few cheers, a smattering of applause and shouts of “Hello Danko!” and “Greetings, Ambassador” and “Welcome home!” I shook some hands and received a few pats on the back and accepted the well-wishes as I worked my way over to a table that had been reserved for us.

But Uncle Manuel was the center of attention, of course. He’s one of the most popular and respected citizens of Strange County. I had passed through the gauntlet of greetings quickly but the crowd would not allow Uncle to do the same. Everyone came closer to say hello or shake his hand or slap his back and engage in a little good-natured ribbing. It seemed the whole town had seen or heard about the old guy climbing up on the farm vehicles over the protests of Annie, Grace and the forewoman. “Manuel,” an older man hollered as he looked out the window, squinting at the parking lot and the street, “where did you park your tractor?” Guffaws all around the pub. “You can’t be pulling your nephew into town on a haywagon, Manuel. The man’s an Ambassador for cryin’ out loud,” said another man, to more raucous laughter. Uncle Manuel laughed along and bantered back and shook the men’s hands and hugged all the ladies. I watched in admiration as he worked the room and brought a smile to each face.

By the time he reached our table, the first round of beers was already in front of us. After we each gave a review of the particular brew before us, Annie and Grace went over to the buffet to get us all some pizza and Uncle Manuel motioned at me to take Grace’s seat.

“Don’t be too hard on your sister,” he said softly. “She’s been a big help to me. I talked to her about the future of the farm over the past few months. Annalee listened. She’s a very good listener. And she gave me her opinion too. She’s not shy, you know?” We both chuckled at that. Manuel went on, “Good head on her shoulders. She’s a smart girl.” “She’s a smart woman, Uncle,” I corrected him.” “Yes,” he agreed, “a smart woman.”

He seemed to have more to say so I sat quietly, waiting, as the noise of the party filled the moment.

He sipped his beer and then almost blurted out, “I don’t want to retire but I realize it’s time. It’s been a lot to handle. And then to figure out the best way for the farm to go on without me.” “Oh Uncle, you’ll still be part of it,” I said, “Just as you asked our advice, we will surely be asking yours.” “Yes,” he said, “I know. But it will just be advice now. I won’t decide anymore. You boys will decide. I’m ready for that. Didn’t think I would be but I am.”

I was glad to hear him say it that way. But before I could comment, Uncle Manuel surprised me again.

“As I say, I will just be offering advice from now on. You and Robbie will have to figure it all out. With help from Levon when you need it but as he won’t be here, it’s up to you and Robbie. And Robbie will be travelling a lot. So it’ll mostly be you. And you won’t always be here. And then what?” Uncle Manuel looked at me as if he was expecting an answer.

He wasn’t. “Well, you will be here, Uncle — ,” I started. He cut me off, “I will only be offering advice.” I didn’t know what to say or what he expected me to say.

The ladies returned with the pizza and Grace took my seat as I had hers. “I’m getting another beer. Danko?” Annie asked. “Yes, thanks!” “I’m good,” Uncle Manuel said. “Me too,” added Grace.

As we watched Annie head for the bar, Uncle Manuel said, “And THAT is the last piece of the puzzle.” Puzzle? I was certainly puzzled. Grace looked puzzled too. “This is just between us three for now,” Manuel said, “and Robbie. He knows. One month after you take over as president, you will announce that Annie is our new vice president.”

The puzzled looks on our faces turned into smiles. It was a big moment in the family. Equal opportunity for women in running the farm was a concept that brought talk but no action from the Whitfield men over the generations. I was looking forward to the day my generation would have the authority to change that. And now, just as we were about to assume that authority, it was the old guard that came through on this issue. It was a moment to remember.

Uncle Manuel made clear this was not a token appointment. He said Annie had the smarts and the drive and those talents should be put to good use. “Robbie is Vice President of Operations. Levon is Vice President of Administration. You’ve got one month, Mr. President, to figure out what Annie can be Vice President of.” “Special Projects,” I said, without missing a beat. “Special Projects!” Uncle Manuel repeated, smiling. Turning to Grace he said, “See, it is worth it to have a writer in the family after all.” We chuckled. Then Grace added, “She’ll be good at that.” “I know, that’s why I said it,” I smiled. “She’s a trouble-shooter, a problem-solver.” Manuel spoke again, “And Danko, I want you to groom her as your successor.” “Firing me already?” I joked. “No, no,” he said, “It’s just I know you weren’t expecting this appointment. And I know how busy you are. If you could just give it say, five years – more if you want – but five years would be good…by that time, Annie will be ready.” “Sounds like a plan,” I said as I lifted my glass to toast the idea. We all sipped our beers, then Uncle Manuel, looking at Annie talking to some customers at the bar, said, “Yup, someday that girl will be the president of Whitfield Farms Corporation.” Grace and I stared at him. “That woman, I mean.” Smiles.

The party continued, the place was packed. Jamie Wright, of  The Pheasant’s Roost Tavern, was “guest bar-tending” for an hour, along with Dave, the regular Saturday night guy, who I’d just met tonight. I didn’t get the whole story but apparently the owner of The Pheasant couldn’t get away so he raffled off the trip among his employees and Jamie had the winning ticket. I had met her a couple of times as she was working the bar at The Pheasant when I visited.

Uncle Manuel stood and clapped his hands and asked everyone for their undivided attention, “All righty, folks. There is a little business to conduct here. Listen up, please.” It took a minute or so for the place to quiet down as the party had been going full-steam.

“My nephew, Danko Whitfield, the Winterfell Ambassador, famous writer, time traveller, and the owner of this drinking establishment –”  (there were cheers for that last credit) “– has an announcement to make but first, I have one of my own…” he continued, “That very same nephew will, in the next few days, add to that list of titles and become the new President of Whitfield Farms Corporation, replacing yours truly.” Someone shouted, “Hear, Hear!!” as the party atmosphere of the gathering turned serious suddenly with everyone applauding the announcement and offering congratulations. Uncle Manuel briefly thanked everyone for their business and friendship over the years and got a big laugh and some cheers when he added, “The rest of it, I’ll save for my retirement party. Danko, you have the floor, I’m going to sit down, shut up and drink.”

I introduced Jamie and made the formal announcement regarding Pheasant’s Ale. As the crowd applauded, Jamie and I toasted each other’s pub. Then I bought a round for the house and the partying resumed.

At one point, I was standing at a table when a fresh tray of beer arrived. I took a stout and began to sip as my sister appeared next to me and selected a red ale. “Welcome home, Danko. Cheers.” We toasted and drank and I leaned over and said quietly, “I thought you were worried about Uncle Manuel, that maybe he wouldn’t give up the farm. Or that I’d feel left out, without much say in the business. But that wasn’t it at all. You were worried about my reaction to being named president.”

Annie nodded. “I know how busy you are,” she said quietly, “and I knew you hadn’t considered anything like this.” “That’s for sure,” I said. “But it’s a good plan,” she continued. “It wasn’t easy for him but he thought it all through. His health, the state of the business, the different talents each of you have. I didn’t expect him to do it this way, splitting up the responsibilities, but it makes a lot of sense. It’s too much for one person nowadays. He’s a very smart man.” I nodded, smiled, sipped my beer. “I’ll need your help too, Annie,” I said. She smiled. “Of course. Anything I can do, just ask.” “I’ll think of something,” I said smiling. Her smile continued but I detected a slightly puzzled look on her face now. It was funny but this was my first piece of business as the head of Whitfield Farms…to try and hire my sister.

“So what are your plans now?” I asked, purposely sounding brotherly rather than business-like though I was asking for both reasons. “No more touring, I hear?” Annie, like everyone in the family, is an accomplished musician and the only one of us who pursued it as a career. She told me she was thinking about settling down and was looking at a couple of teaching positions in the Strange County school system. She was also considering teaching music privately, giving lessons on piano, guitar and flute.

“You men still like all the travel but I’m ready to give that up. I’ve always enjoyed helping people grow their music. And coming back here to live won’t be so bad with you here often and Levon from time to time. As long as I can get news of the outside world, I’ll be all right,” she laughed.

“Well, I must say, this trip has been one surprise after another. My little sister has had enough travel? I never thought I’d hear that one. Maybe when you got older,” I said. “But I am getting older, Danko. I’m not as young as I used to be,” Annie offered. “You’re not old. You’re only 43,” I said with a smile. “40!” she corrected me immediately. It was another round of the family tradition of adding three years to everyone’s age, usually observed on birthdays. “Seriously,” I asked, “is everything all right?” “Oh yes,” she said with great assurance in her voice, “I’m really doing very well, brother. Don’t worry about me.” “Okay,” I said, “I won’t. But Annie, I am quite surprised. Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Well,” she said, smiling in a way that made her look ten years younger, “there is a guy.” “Ohhhhh,” I said in a louder voice than I’d been using, causing a couple of nearby heads to turn, I continued quietly, “Now we’ve come to the real news! Do tell…”  “Not here, not now,” she said quietly. “You’ll meet him soon.” “Oh, you’re introducing him?” I asked with a tone that implied this must be somebody special. “Yes. To you,” Annie said as she placed her forefinger in front of her lips. “Ahhh,” I said, getting the message. “No problem.”

“How’s that red ale?”

 

Visit The Evergreen Pub in Dankoville. The HG address is 67.253.121.199:9000:Dankoville

The Pheasant’s Roost Tavern in Ravenbaile, Ireland is located in the Augurey Peak region on Metropolis grid. The HG address is hypergrid.org:8002:augurey peak

Pheasant’s Roost Tavern

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Ireland. A random Tuesday night, in the early 21st century.

I had some business in Carlow for awhile. Met with a newspaperman there, an old friend I first met in The States.

Worked my way over to Wexford for a stay. Now headed back to Dublin for a few days before I depart for home, earlier times, Winterfell.

According to the map, I’m in the Wicklow Mountains. Augurey Peak is the name of this area.

I was here a couple of weeks ago. By accident. Got on the wrong train. Realized it and got off here, figuring to get the next train back the other way and make the proper connection. Came in to this pub on that occasion. Enchanted. The music on the radio, the locals chatting – jousting verbally if truth be told. Had a couple Guinness and a cheese and onion sandwich with tomato. And a spicy yellow mustard that looks innocent enough but will nearly set your nose hairs afire. Hot but good. One of those unexpected and simple pleasures of life, perfect in that moment. Had to run to catch the train but vowed to myself, I’d be back before I left for home.

Nobody here tonight though. Just me and the bartender. Mike. I remembered from the last time. He remembered me too, smiled when I sat down and ordered a pint. “Comin’ through again, I see,” he said. “Yes,” I smiled. To say I stand out from the locals would be an understatement. “It’s a nice place,” I added. To which he smiled. And served my pint.

Last time I was here, there was an off-duty police officer having a few pints and chatting up the ladies…or trying. I never quite figured out if he was a local cop or from Dublin and just visiting. But he seemed to know both the ladies in the pub at that time – though maybe not as well as he would have liked – the bartender who relieved Mike, Jamie I think it was and a customer who sat on the other side of the bar from me, an American, who I gathered lived here now. Their conversation was lively and funny – though I’m sure I got less than half of it. Still they were all polite to a stranger and included me when they could.

No other customers tonight though. I ordered another cheese and onion sandwich with tomato and some of that spicy yellow mustard they do here. Whew! That stuff is hot. Mike brought me a second Guinness to put out the fire and wash it all down.

Quiet on the streets tonight too. But there’s something “different” about this town. Not sure what it is.

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Editor’s note: Augurey Peak is located on the Metropolis grid. There is a long-running and very lively RP community here, based on the magic of Harry Potter with an Irish twist. Interested parties should contact Jamie Wright.